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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 8/18/21

Guests: Beto O`Rourke, Regina Romero, Timothy Kudo, Lauren Groh-Wargo


The CDC announced that all fully vaccinated people should get a booster shot eight months after the completion of their first vaccination. President Joe Biden pleaded with the 85 million unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated. President Biden said that the Afghanistan withdrawal is not failure. Republicans in Georgia are using their new election law to take the first step to changing the outcome of the next election in Georgia by changing who is in charge of counting the votes. Today President Biden announced that everyone should receive a coronavirus vaccine booster shot eight months after the completion of their first vaccination process.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: You poignantly ask the question in your beautifully-written piece of will our children suffer the same? And I now - - I now think they will. And I didn`t think that even just a few weeks ago because what I`m seeing here is the reaction to what`s happening in Afghanistan to people who are young enough to not have seen the same thing in Vietnam is so raw and so intense that it tells me, oh, so the Vietnam experience was forgotten. It was not used as a model for this. People didn`t build it into their psyches as they were watching this. And so now they`re shocked. And that seems like a cycle that can repeat in human behavior.

TIMOTHY KUDO, FORMER MARINE CAPTAIN, SERVED IN AFGHANISTAN: Absolutely. And I think, you know, we were always having to relearn these lessons with each new generation. But I think also, you know, Americans are generally not tuned into foreign policy.

For many of them except when the 9/11 happens, it doesn`t affect them directly. And so what ends up happening is you have, you know, foreign policy experts, politicians, generals, people of this nature who are basically able to kind of guide America`s policy, you know, unimpeded and without any kind of check and balance.

And, you know, for 20 years there`s been essentially a bipartisan consensus about the Afghanistan war. It`s gone through Bush, it`s gone through Obama, and it`s gone through Trump. And finally it`s President Biden who`s ending it, thankfully.

But, you know, the American people are going to have to figure out that their government has a limited power when it comes to foreign and that frankly, their government lies to them regularly when it comes to these issues as we`ve seen in the Afghanistan papers and we saw earlier in Vietnam with the Pentagon Papers.

O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean we -- the country learned that General William Westmoreland was lying about the Vietnam War and so you had, you know, more than 100 million people in America who learned do not believe generals, do not believe the modern post-World War II general during war.

What`s happened in the news media over the last, you know, 30 years or so has been a kind of new reverence for military commanders with a kind of a projected capacity onto these military commanders that as far as I can tell they have not earned.

KUDO: No, that`s absolutely the case. I mean for 20 years the generals promised that they would win the war and they didn`t. And yet, you know, now many of them have gone onto lucrative and highly respected careers when they should be cowering in shame, frankly. And it`s a bit of a tragedy that we`ve allowed that to happen.

I think as well, you know, when the media kind of looks at the generals they say, you know, how could Biden have ignored the advice of his military leaders or gone against it?

Well, we live in a democracy where a civilian president is supposed to do exactly that. They`re supposed to exercise judgment not just from a military perspective but from the best interest of the nation as a whole.

And so now as we shift, you know, from a military phase to a more diplomatic and kind of international relations phase with both Afghanistan and the Taliban, you know, we need to break out of that mind-set that the military is the solution to all our problems.

O`DONNELL: Timothy Kudo, I could go on and on with you. Thank you very much for your service. Thank you for writing this piece. Thank you for joining us tonight.

KUDO: Appreciate you. O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up Republicans are taking the first steps to possibly changing the results -- actually changing the results of the next election in Georgia after voters have cast their votes for the candidate of their choice.

Lauren Groh-Wargo will join us next.



O`DONNELL: Republicans in Georgia are using their new election law to take the first step to changing the outcome of the next election in Georgia by changing who is in charge of counting the votes.

Today the Republican controlled state election board appointed a panel to do what they are calling a performance review of the election process in the largest Democratic county in the state, Fulton County.

Georgia Republicans have targeted only that county even though an independent monitor found no evidence of fraud or impropriety of any kind. The "Atlanta Journal Constitution" reports, "After the review is completed the state election board will have the power to replace Fulton`s election board with a temporary superintendent who would have authority over vote counting. Polling places and staffing."

Yesterday the Georgia secretary of state`s office announced that it conducted a voter purge of more than 101,000 inactive voter registrations this summer.

In Washington Democrats in the Senate are still finalizing a compromise voting rights bill. House Democrats have just introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore key provisions to the 1965 Voting Rights Act that have been struck down by the Supreme Court. The house could vote on that bill as early as next week.

And two sources tell NBC News that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a 90- minute call with senior White House officials yesterday to discuss how they can get President Biden`s top agenda items passed including voting rights.

Joining us now is the Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of Fair Fight Action. She managed Stacey Abrams` campaign for governor in Georgia. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

The most frightening part of the Georgia law for me has always been any kind of Republican change in control of counting the votes. It looks like they are actually taking action in that direction now.

LAUREN GROH-WARGO, CEO, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: Yes, you`re correct, Lawrence. I thought your lead-in was really well-said.

This I think is going to be one of those weeks that we`re going to look back. This is big week in American history. We had a really robust Voting Rights Act introduced yesterday in Congress named after my former Congressman John Lewis here in Atlanta.

And at the same time we saw the state election board here in Georgia take a critical step in moving forward on this Fulton County local takeover.


GROH-WARGO: So I thought to kind of explain this a bit I would remind folks how we got here, Lawrence, which is that during the runoff when every political actor was focused on the state of Georgia and who would win these two U.S. Senate seats, we had Rudy Giuliani and his band of bumbling brothers show up multiple times to show up in person at these basically voter fraud farcical hearings of the legislature.

There were so many things that happened people may have forgotten that, but that was really key because it was in those hearings that a whole series of conspiracies and lies and accusations around voter fraud and a whole set of insane theories that were very serious and threatening to our democracy were lodged.

And then we won an election. Democrats sent Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the Senate after flipping the state for Joe Biden. Three different winning of elections that were just insufferable and not being able to be tolerated by Trump himself, we now know, as well as the Republican base in Georgia and around the country.

They literally could not understand how this could possibly happen to this Georgia Deep South state. And so Tuesday we had a runoff in Georgia in January. Wednesday was an insurrection at the Capitol. And then Monday, that next Monday the legislature reconvened here in Georgia as well as in many states around the country.

And we immediately saw Heritage and this right wing group of actors introduce legislation in Georgia that took all of Giuliani and related Trumpian MAGA faction theories and operationalized (ph) it into this big omnibus anti-voting bill.

And it was the model for what they did in Georgia. They started replicating it around the country. And like you said there are a lot of very horrible provisions in this bill that are precision-targeted to make it harder for people of color to vote.

And one body of this bill, one part of this bill is really around the counting of votes and who has the power around election administration. And this -- we`ve seen this in other states as well but Georgia is really the first state to take these steps where the Republican-gerrymandered legislature in Georgia gave itself through this bill new powers to control election administration in the state and to take over county boards of elections.

So any Republican legislatures from a county can initiate a process to start this takeover process.

But here`s how I would think about this. What`s happening in Georgia and around the country is we`re moving from a Trump strongman election subversion, right, he was calling all over the country trying to flip election results, right? Trump himself was strongarming Bill Barr, strongarming Brad Raffensperger, strongarming state legislators in Michigan, right. Like, he was the strongman.

They have now weaponized through appointments of Republican Party election administrator appointments through state laws and others. They`re institutionalizing lots of little mini strongmen and women so they don`t need a strongman so that they can subvert and suppress the vote in all of these small and large ways at the local, state and national level.

And so this is a big problem. And it`s a little unclear, Lawrence, where exactly this process is going to go. But I can tell you what you said. It`s the biggest Democratic county. It`s the most voters of color of any county in the state voted for Biden over 70 percent.

And this diverse county now has a three white man majority Republican panel that`s going to come in to review what they`ve been up to. And then they have broad powers to go back to the state election board, an unelected body -- Brad Raffensperger himself pointed out these are unelected unaccountable folks that are going to be able to potentially take over that process.

So this is going to be potentially a long process. We`re going to fight it along the way because we don`t want this to be precedent setting in terms of taking over other counties and to really hold folks accountable and make sure voters have their voices heard.

But this is happening all over the country in different ways, and sadly we`re sort of at the tip of the spear. But I want to hear what other questions you have because I do have some very specific ways we can fight back because it`s such a moment I feel like in in this country where people feel beleaguered and like what can we do, right.


O`DONNELL: All right. So my next question is what are you doing tomorrow night because we`re out of time for this segment. And we have to get your recommendations on another night.

Lauren Groh-Wargo, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it. Learned a lot as usual.

GROH-WARGO: Thanks Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, Dr. Kavita Patel will join us with everything you need to know about when you should get your booster shot of coronavirus vaccine. That`s next.



O`DONNELL: Today President Biden announced that everyone should receive a coronavirus vaccine booster shot eight months after the completion of their first vaccination process. The president said the booster shots will become available beginning next month.

Joining us now is Dr. Kavita Patel, former White House health policy director in the Obama administration. She`s a physician and an MSNBC medical contributor.

And Dr. Patel, I marked down today November 4th which is exactly eight months after March 4th when I got my second shot of Moderna along with I think 9,000 other people that day at Dodger Stadium.

So that`s what -- I have this right, right? Eight months after my second shot, go get the booster?


DR. KAVITA PATEL, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that`s right, Lawrence. That`s very good. It`s eight months but I`ll just say there`s a window. I just don`t want people to think that if they wait eight months and 14 days, they`re too late. It is really a window of about 8 to 12 months after that second dose.

But yes. Americans will be eligible starting September 20th, you can do the math. We had people vaccinated before January 20th but there are a number of things that have to happen between today and September 20th in order to make that rollout occur.

For example, like the FDA authorizing the booster shot. The little trivia fact that we kind of overlooked. But that`s when people will start and they want it to be on a rolling basis based on your second dose, assuming Lawrence that the people that got it early are health care workers, essential workers, elderly and nursing home residents and then some others probably interspersed, members of Congress, as we know, and some others in between.

But yes, this is the beginning of what I would say is the fall of the booster shot season.

O`DONNELL: I am literally asking for a friend but also millions of other people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. What is the guidance on the one-shot vaccine when it comes to a booster shot?

DR. PATEL: Yes. So there is no guidance. There have been -- so that`s not great news because you are asking for 13 million people that we have to care about.

Here`s what the administration tells us. But here`s what my advice has been to patients. Number one, most of the Johnson & Johnson shots were distributed starting March, so if you count eight months, we have until November. But again, that doesn`t make people feel comfortable with out that certainty.

What I told patients is that, you definitely -- we should be seeing some results of what we call mix and match trials. Where we have one shot of a type of vaccine like Johnson & Johnson and another one, for example, one shot of Pfizer.

Similar trials, Lawrence, in the U.K. have yielded incredible results. So I think, we`re going to see incredible action on the food and Drug Administration and it reminds me, Lawrence, that you`re a policy person. We`ve never seen science in an incredible pandemic and having to adapt to policy infrastructure. They weren`t meant to be so nimble and facile.

I mean when have we ever been glued about FDA emergency authorizations on a day by day basis. You know, watching the administration, you know, figuring it out as they`re building the ship.

O`DONNELL: So just to finish the point on Johnson & Johnson, is it that they don`t know yet whether there should be a booster shot for Johnson & Johnson or they don`t know how to do a booster shot for it? What is the situation? What are they waiting to figure out?

DR. PATEL: Right. The situation is there are -- Johnson & Johnson has been in trial with two doses. So the first dose and the second dose. We`ll call that a booster. But they`re waiting to see the read-out. Johnson & Johnson has to submit a data package to the FDA.

My -- if I had to bet, Lawrence, I`ll bet you a lot of Americans are going to seek out one dose of an mRNA vaccine some way. We know people have already.

So I would love to see some guidance so that they`re not left high and dry. But we are waiting for Johnson & Johnson to kind of give some official read-out on that two-dose regimen that they`ve had in trial.

Meanwhile, we`re also waiting to see how these mix and match trials go. So Johnson & Johnson patients who are listening, do not run out to go get one of the mRNA vaccine but talk to your physician because if you are immunocompromised, if you have a certain situation, you may need to seek out a vaccine booster sooner rather than later.

And that`s the other point, Lawrence. You have a lot of people that are immunocompromised that did not get their sufficient immunization. They need to get a third dose that`s different from a booster and they need to get it now. And FDA has commented on that already.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Kavita Patel, thank you very much for joining us on this important news night about the booster shot. We really appreciate it.

Thank you. We`ll be right back.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to speak to you all -- all of you who are vaccinated. How should you be thinking about the moment we`re in?

First, know that you`re highly protected against severe illness and death from COVID-19. Only a small fraction of people going to the hospital today are those who have been vaccinated. We have a responsibility to give the maximum amount of protection, all of you the maximum amount.

Earlier today, our medical experts announced a plan for booster shots to every fully-vaccinated American. The threat of the delta virus remains real. But we are prepared. We have the tools. We can do this.


O`DONNELL: Here`s what Dr. Anthony Fauci said today about the booster shots for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGIES AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If you look first at the left panel, the first column is looking at the antibody titer just before the third dose. And then 15 days after the third dose is shown right next to it that says D-15.

As you can see, a remarkable increase in titers against the six month 4G, the B1351, the key 1 and then the Pfizer data which you expect would be very, very similar to the Moderna.

It was also against the delta variant. So you get a dramatic increase in antibody titers when you do a third immunization dose.



O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again.

Day 211 of the Biden administration which is racing to put out the firestorm ignited by the debacle --